Row Erupts After Rishi Sunak Orders RAF Air Strikes Without Parliamentary Approval

Prime minister warned the action against Houthi targets risks "setting the region alight".
Rishi Sunak authorised the air strikes without consulting parliament.
Rishi Sunak authorised the air strikes without consulting parliament.
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

A row has erupted over Rishi Sunak’s decision to authorise military action in the Middle East without consulting parliament first.

The prime minister gave the green light for RAF Typhoon jets to take part in the “limited, necessary and proportionate” strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen alongside US allies.

It followed a string of Houthi attacks on commercial sea vessels in the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Sunak held an emergency cabinet meeting at around 7.45pm on Thursday to discuss the crisis.

Keir Starmer and Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle were notified of the air strikes in advance, but Downing Street defied calls for parliament to be recalled to debate the operation.

Although MPs do not need to pre-approve military action by British forces, it has become the convention in recent years for parliament to debate - and vote - on operations before they take place.

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell was among those who spoke out before the air strikes took place.

Posting on X (formerly Twitter), he said: “There should be no military action without Parliamentary approval. If we have learnt anything in recent years it’s that military intervention in the Middle East always has dangerous & often unforeseen consequences. There is a risk of setting the region alight.”

He was supported by fellow Labour left-winger Zarah Sultana, who called for parliament - which is not sitting again until next week - to be recalled.

Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, also said parliament should be recalled.

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran said the decision not to consult parliament was “shameful”.

She added: “The Liberal Democrats are very concerned by Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

“It’s destabilising for regional security and has a detrimental impact on cost of living in the UK too as ships are diverted.”

However, Keir Starmer said Labour backed the military action and would not echo the calls for parliament to be recalled.

Instead, he urged Sunak to make a statement to parliament “as soon as possible”.


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